All of us at St. David’s wish you a Happy and Healthy New Year.
This coming year we face great challenges.
On Sunday 8th December our vicar the Rev. Peter Smyth announced he was leaving us to be vicar at Holy Spirit Church in Dovecot, a church he had worshipped at before he was ordained and where he had been helping out during their interregnum – the term used for when one vicar leaves and another is appointed, but when he applied for this vacancy he thought he was leaving us in the capable hands of our Ordained Local Minister the Reverend Sheila Jennifer Gillies. Tragically less than a week later we received the news that Sheila had died after a short illness.
Sheila was one of us, having attended our church in her youth. Then like so many went away to college to train as a teacher and then went on to teach in a British Army School in Germany where she made many lifelong friends.
When she returned from Germany she taught in primary schools in Liverpool but by the turn of the century her hearing problems made life difficult to hear her pupils and she reluctantly had to take early retirement. At the age of fifty she was diagnosed with breast cancer and she faced the problem with positivity. After treatment she went on to train as a Church of England Reader. This involves reading, but also taking funerals, leading Services and preaching. Then with the development of science she had an implant and after a couple of months had the latest hearing aid fitted. She was amazed to find when driving home from the hospital that cars made different noises when you accelerated and braked and that when she turned off the gas fire it also made strange noises.
After much soul searching she applied to the Church of England to become a priest, but because of her early retirement on health grounds they would only accept her as a Non-Stipendiary Priest. That meant she would not be paid but would continue to serve in her own parish of St. David’s.
The Bishop of Warrington ordained Sheila deacon in her own church, and as we waited to process into church I looked up and on the church bell tower I saw two white doves, the symbol of St. David. It seemed he was giving her his blessing. A year later she was priested in the Anglican Cathedral just days after the Rev. Robert Williams had been inducted as our new vicar. Not many new vicars would welcome saying that there would be no service on the their first Sunday as most of us were going to the Cathedral to support Sheila. There then followed ten years of happy partnership between Sheila and Rob.
Sheila was involved in all aspects of church life, leading a house group where she challenged her group but her quirky sense of humour always came to the fore. On Mondays she would be helping at the lunch club, often washing the dishes and then sweeping the floors. She also helped run the babes and toddlers group on Tuesdays and on Fridays would be helping in the café.
She loved taking baptisms and weddings with her own individual style. When she took funerals she brought comfort to the bereaved. She helped the chaplain at Broadgreen Hospital and if anyone was ill she would be visiting them at home or in hospital.
In spite of many health problems Sheila would be always laughing and joking, even as she left the health centre the day before she died. We are all going to miss her greatly, I count it a privilege to have been her friend for nearly a quarter of a century. We send our condolences to all her family.
Sheila passed away in Fazakerley Hospital on 13th December and her Funeral took place on 8th January at St David’s.
Cynthia, PCC Secretary